The State Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is monitoring the appearance of an increased number of Asian tiger prawns, a non-native species, in Louisiana waters.

Department officials are asking local shrimp harvesters to report catches of tiger prawns to the state, according to a LDWF news release.

While there is little known at this time about the impacts of tiger prawns on indigenous Louisiana shrimp, the reports are key in helping state biologists monitor the distribution and relative abundance of these prawns and in determining the possible presence of spawning populations.

It is unknown when and how tiger prawns were first introduced into the Gulf of Mexico. In 1988, a portion of a population of reared tiger prawns escaped from a facility on the east coast. Approximately 1,000 adults were later recaptured as far south as Cape Canaveral, Fla. In September 2006, a single adult male was captured by a commercial shrimp fisherman in Mississippi Sound near Dauphin Island, Ala., and reports from Alabama and Mississippi have been increasing ever since.

LDWF first documented the occurrence of Asian tiger prawns in Louisiana in August 2007, when a single specimen was taken by a commercial shrimp fisherman in Vermilion Bay. Prior to the 2011 fall inshore shrimp season, reported captures in Louisiana waters numbered fewer than 25.

To report catches of Asian tiger prawns please contact Robert Bourgeois at rbourgeois@wlf.la.gov or (225) 765-0765 or Marty Bourgeois at mbourgeois@wlf.la.gov or (225) 765-2401 with the date, location and size of capture. Pictures are encouraged.

Tiger prawns are easily identifiable by their large size, dark body color and white banding found along the head and between segments of the tail.